SWEPCO seeks approval for $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 957 views 

Energy provider Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), along with staff of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, the Arkansas attorney general and Walmart Inc., have asked the commission to approve the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project under terms of a settlement agreement.

On Tuesday (Feb. 20), SWEPCO, a subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power, announced the agreement in its request for approval of the $4.5 billion project that includes the purchase of a 2,000-megawatt wind farm under construction in the Oklahoma Panhandle and construction of a 360-mile transmission line to Tulsa, where the existing electrical grid would deliver wind energy to customers. SWEPCO would own 70% of the project, and its sister company, Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, would own 30%. SWEPCO Arkansas is investing $607 million into the project.

In the agreement, SWEPCO agreed to a cap on construction costs, qualifying for 100% of federal production tax credits and minimum annual production from the project.

“We are extremely pleased with this settlement agreement because it recognizes the tremendous opportunity the Wind Catcher project provides for clean, low-cost energy and long-term savings for SWEPCO customers,” said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. “Our customers are looking to us to provide clean, reliable and cost-effective power. Wind Catcher will help companies, universities, cities and other customers meet their sustainability and renewable energy goals.”

The city of Fayetteville and Walmart have goals to be supplied by 100% renewable energy. The Wind Catcher project would allow the city to improve to 43% clean energy by 2021.

“Sourcing from wind energy projects — like the Wind Catcher project — is a core component in the mix,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart. “The energy procured from this project represents an important leap forward on our renewable energy journey.”

SWEPCO expects the project will save customers more than $4 billion, net of cost, over the 25-year life of the wind farm. Cost savings include no fuel cost for wind, the full value of the federal production tax credit, and efficiency related to delivering wind energy through a dedicated transmission line. Starting in 2021, customers can expect to see savings on the fuel portion of their bills.

GE Renewable Energy will provide 800 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for the Wind Catcher project and a large number of the turbine blades, towers and generator frames will be built in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, according to SWEPCO. When completed in the fourth quarter of 2020, the Wind Catcher facility will be the largest single-site wind project in the United States. Invenergy is building the wind farm in Cimarron and Texas counties, and SWEPCO and PSO will purchase it when it’s completed.

“The Wind Catcher project is tapping into one of the best wind resources in the country, and the dedicated power line will deliver the renewable energy efficiently, reliably and cost-effectively to our customers,” McCellon-Allen said. The project will increase SWEPCO’s energy resource mix to 26% renewable energy, from 8%. SWEPCO receives 469 megawatts of wind power through long-term agreements with wind farms in the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma and south-central Kansas.

Utility commissions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve the Wind Catcher project.